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The Unobtrusive Orchid

About thirty years ago, while conducting an environmental program for an elementary class, a strange plant caught my eye as I led the students on a trail through a freshwater wetland area in a state park preserve in New York.

The plant was about eight inches tall, purplish brown with a spike of tiny blossoms of the same color and two green basal leaves.  I knew that I had never seen it before and made a mental note of its location. After the program I returned to the area and examined the plant closely. The tiny flowers looked like orchids so with a guide book and wildflower plant key, I determined that it was southern twayblade, an orchid of wet woodlands and bogs. The identification was confirmed by botanists at Planting Fields Arboretum and it was the first time this plant was found along the Connetquot River wetlands.

This orchid is found from Texas to Vermont and is endangered in many states. In the north if you are in moist woodlands around Memorial Day Weekend, this plant’s peak bloom, look for it and if you do find it, let your local botanical society or botanical garden that you saw this plant. Due to its inconspicuous blooms it is possible that this plant is often overlooked by people visiting parks.

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